The Cost of Cold

“When I was young, being cold wasn’t an issue, it never occurred to me it could be a problem. But as I’ve got older staying warm has become my priority. Being older, and less active, it’s so hard to ward off the cold.” Dreda, 94

Winter brings many challenges for us as we get older – dark days mean people get out less, and ice and snow can increase the fear and risk of falling. But research shows that cold is the biggest killer.

Today, Age UK is releasing a new report ‘The Cost of Cold’. It highlights the fact that each winter there are around 27,000 additional deaths in England and Wales, the vast majority among older people.

For each death, there are many more people who become seriously ill, needing hospitalisation in the short term and possibly social care in the longer term. Age UK’s new analysis finds that the cost to the NHS in England from cold homes alone is likely to be around £1.36 billion a year.

Every death or serious illness is a personal tragedy for the individual and family involved – and these deaths are largely preventable. Other colder countries such as Finland have significantly lower death rates, due to better insulated homes and greater awareness of the need to keep warm.

Through our Spread the Warmth campaign, we are highlighting simple steps that older people can take to keep warm and protect their own health, such as keeping their bedroom windows closed at night, or covering their face and hands when out in the cold. Thanks to our partnership with the Met Office we are able to pass on the Cold Weather alerts to older people via our local Age UK partners throughout the winter. Continue reading “The Cost of Cold”

Guest Blog – Cold Weather Alerts 2012

This year as part of our Spread the Warmth campaign we are working with the Met Office, as part of the national Cold Weather Plan, to provide targeted information to the older people who are most at risk when a cold snap is imminent. This guest blog from the Met office sets out how the Cold Weather Plan will work:

Although winter weather and snow can be fun, they are also associated with an increase in illnesses and injuries. Severe cold weather can be dangerous for vulnerable groups such as older people and those with serious illnesses. Older people are particularly at risk as they do not feel the cold until their body temperature falls. With this in mind, the Met Office is working in partnership with the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency again this year to provide the Cold Weather Alerts that inform the Cold Weather Plan for England.

Our Cold Weather Alert service operates in England from 1 November to 31
March every year. Met Office Cold Weather Alerts are sent to NHS Trusts in England, and Age UK centres, to ensure that staff and resources are ready for any cold weather periods and those who are more vulnerable to cold weather conditions are informed / made aware and prepared. Cold Weather Alerts are also issued on our website, via weather forecasts on TV and radio and also via our Twitter feed.

Continue reading “Guest Blog – Cold Weather Alerts 2012”

Keep the cold out this winter

Every winter in the UK, there are more than 200 deaths per day as a result of the cold weather. Samantha Nicklin, Senior Campaigns Officer at Age UK finds out why, and what can be done.

At Age UK County Durham, a lady asked about how to use the room thermometers being distributed at a ‘Keep Warm, Keep Well’ roadshow. She told the Development Worker about how her friend had a freezing cold house, but the friend wouldn’t take any notice when told that it was too cold for her. The lady took two thermometers away for her friend.

A week later, the lady phoned the office to explain that her friend had put the thermometers up, one in the bedroom and one in the living room, and was shocked to discover how cold her house was. She turned up the heating a little until the thermometers were in the ‘comfortable’ zone. The lady said her friend now feels much better and not as tired as she had been feeling.

Simple actions like this save lives. Older people who live in cold homes are at risk of becoming seriously ill. Exposure to the cold causes blood pressure to rise, increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke in the winter months. But the risks can be reduced by taking simple actions, like eating an extra hot meal every day, keeping the living room warm during the day and closing bedroom windows at night.

Making sure older people know the health risks, and most importantly, what action they can take stay warm and well, Age UK is distributing Winter Wrapped Up information guides, which come with two free thermometers, so that older people can monitor their room temperature at home and make sure they keep warm when the temperature drops. Age UK is also distributing a recipe book called Keep the Cold Out This Winter, which contains seven winter warmer recipes, and important tips for reducing the risk of illness.

Recent research shows that older people often ignore important messages about keeping warm in winter because they dismiss the information as ‘common sense’. Age UK research found that older people are more likely to take steps to keep warm if they are reminded about the health risks of exposure to the cold and of what actions they can take to reduce their risk.

That’s why Age UK is working with the Met Office to receive Cold Weather Alerts when a cold snap is imminent. We will be informed three or four days in advance of a cold snap that the temperature is likely to drop to below 2°C and stay cold for 48 hours or longer if there is heavy snow or widespread ice.

Every older person deserves to be protected from the potentially life-threatening consequences of the cold and so Age UK will be delivering vital information and services throughout the winter months, helping thousands of older people.

For more information about the campaign, or to order our winter resources, please contact Samantha Nicklin, Senior Campaigns Officer on 020 3033 1431 or email

Find out more about our Spread the Warmth campaign